tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC August 8, 2017 10:00am-11:00am PDT
headquarters. nbc news has new information on north korea's nuclear capabilities. i want to bring in retired army general wesley clark and nbc news intelligence and national security reporter ken delaney. ken, what more can you tell us? >> a u.s. official briefed on the intelligence has confirmed to nbc news that "washington post" report that u.s. intelligence now assesses that north korea has successfully miniature rised a nuclear with that. in other words, built a warhead small enough to fit atop a missile. which is a significant milestone and really increases the threat profile of north korea to the united states especially on the heels of that missile test last month of a missile that many experts assess could reach the u.s. mainland. >> does this mean that the north has fielded a nuclear tipped weapon?
>> no, it doesn't mean that yet. it's a significant development along that path. but there are other technological hurdles our sources say to doing that. you have to be able to build a missile and warhead that survives reentry and you have to have a reliable missile system. and of course u.s. intelligence inside north korea is very limited. we don't know what we don't know, so there is significant question as to what their capabilities actually are. this assessment speeds up the time table and subjects that they have achieved miniaturization much sooner than previously had been understood. >> and how did we miss this? how did it happen so much faster that be we thought it would? >> well, in a sense this is something that many analysts have been saying, they are two years away, five years away. and now it's finally now arrived. >> all right. stand by for me. general, what does this mean for
our relationship with north korea now moving forward? >> it means we'll move into a period ever mutual deterrence. that is to say we're going to have to accept the fact thateve. that is to say we're going to have to accept the fact that if their capability stands, that in the event of war on the korean peninsula, the united states home land is not safe. and therefore this makes deterrence more complicated. can tdeterrence work? sure. it worked in the cold war. but the question then was would they trade hamburg for new york. because if we defended against the soviet attack in germany and they used nuclear weapons and then it would bring the conflict to the united states. and that is the same question that is going to have to be asked and answered in terms of protecting the government and the people of south korea now. >> if you were advising president trump right now, what would you suggest he do?
>> well, i would suggest that we hold talks with north korea. and i've suggested this in the past because this is a logical way forward. those talks have to be held without the pre-condition that has been put on them that you have to give up your nuclear programs and then we'll talk to you. that is not realistic. that this is their guarantee of survival. and so what the north korean regime has to understand, okay, so you have a nuclear weapon with a missile. new behave yourself and be a normal country. and stop threatening people and you don't have to worry about the united states threatening you. and it may lead to a series of agreements in which that we could stabilize northeast asia and still keep the u.s. determent in place in japan and south korea. but we also have to understand that it's in china and russia's interests to lever the united states out of south korea and ultimately away from our relationship with japan. so this will be a very difficult
set of discussions with north korea. >> if we engage in talks with north korea, this rogue nation, how does that discourage other countries from doing what he has done? >> it doesn't discourage it, but the point is that starting in 2002 once we declared an axis of evil, we said -- president bush said that we can't let the worst countries have the worst weapons. it was a challenge. we were focused on the middle east, north korea already had a head start in the nuclear weapons program. they took up the challenge and now they have the weapon. so the situation is different. we have to do what is best for the american people and our allies. and it's true, it would be better if a rogue nation like we branded north korea doesn't have nuclear weapons. but the fact is they do. so we have to recognize that and deal with it it. can we strengthen the nonproliferation regime?
yes, we could try to prevent other countries from getting nuclear weapons. but north korea has nuclear weapons. >> ken, to be clear, in terms of next steps, now that they have miniature rise eized this nucle warhead is the next step perfecting the technology that would allow reentry? >> it's not clear that they have actually tested this minl ch miniaturized warhead, so there are many other technological steps before they get to the point where they have a reliable icbm nuclear missile. so it does give the trump administration some time to deal with this problem. but to the general's point, it's interesting, the trump administration is not speaking in terms of deterrence regarding north korea's nuclear capability. they are speaking in terms that it's unacceptable. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said war with north korea is not unimaginable. what is unimaginable is for north korea to have a nuclear
missile that it can lob at denver. and so that is the terms that they are speaking in right now and it remains to be scene whether they had just to what the general is saying. >> i think those are veryene whether they had just to what the general is saying. >> i think those are veryene whether they had just to what the general is saying. >> i think those are very whether they had just to what the general is saying. >> i think those are very dangerous terms because as we know there is no real military option to taking out north korea's missile and nuclear capabilities without most likely starting a major military operation in northeast asia that would have hundreds of thousands of casualties in south korea and possibly japan as well. the north koreans to have chemical weapons, they do have biological weapons including possibly even smallpox weaponized, although it shouldn't be. but it may be there. and they have nuclear weapons. so the idea that the united states could send in a few special forces, tag those nuclear weapons, put explosives on, disable them and say to mr. kim, see, now you don't have it, so you better behave yourself,
that is not a feasible option. there may be other options out there that we don't know about yet. but that one isn't feasible. and from the north korean perspective and the way they negotiate is that they are very aggressive in theaeir goern yap negotiations. so when you threaten north korea, you increase the likely head that they will take some kinds of preemptive action that initiates war. he wi we don't want to stumble into a war on miscalculation. >> stand by for me. i want to bring in peter alexander now who is in bridgewater, new jersey where of course the president is spending some time. peter, we've heard from president trump on north korea recently via his favorite communication device, twitter. what is he saying? >> reporter: well, we heard from him on twitter earlier today. he wrote in part, after many years of failure, countries are
coming together to finally address the dangers posed by north korea. we must be tough and decisive. obviously this new reporting right now, not just amplifies but accelerates the challenge that the trump administration, the president himself, is facing at this time. we know yesterday he spent more than an hour on the phone with his secretary of state rex tillerson. we heard both yesterday and today from the u.s. ambassador to the united nations nikki haley who has basically focused on the success right now, the diplomatic success so far particularly as it relates to russia and china. china as she noted taking a different tone, far less forgiving toward north korea, much tougher given these new sanctions, a billion dollars which marks about a third of their foreign exports with iron, coal, other topics of that sort. so right now, this obviously though really puts this on the front burner for this administration given the fact that this time table appears to be accelerating.
for a long time the president says we will not allow north korea to be able to strike the united states, increasingly it becomes clear that not just that they have the capability, but they may have the capability that includes using a nuclear weapon, as well. >> peter, stand by. ned price joining us as well. ned price of course spokesman for the national security council under president obama, and also an msnbc contributor. ned, word that north korea has now miniaturized this nuclear warhead. how does this change the equation moving forward? >> well, if that is indeed true, it will change the equation greatly. it certainly impacts our national security. there are a few key steps in the path towards achieving a nuclear program. one is developing the nuclear device itself which north korea has tested some six times since 2006. the second of course is developing a delivery vehicle, in this case the icbm that they tested twice last month, an icbm that by some estimates could
indeed reach distances as far as new york if it is projected in a linear line. and third, miniaturizing the nuclear device such that it can fit on top of the icbm. that said, there are key technical hurdles that will remain. chiefly it is reentry. making the icbm and meeting it with the nuclear device in a way that it does not disintegrate when entering the atmosphere. unfortunately for us, there is not a way to know just when it north korea has done that. we may not know until they god forbid test a missile with that on top. >> so to be clear here, ned, the only technical hurdle that north korea seems to have left is reentry? >> well, there are other key challenges that go with any sort of nuclear program like this. guidance systems, targeting for
example. but look, the thing about nuclear weapons is you don't need to be all that accurate. if you launch a nuclear weapon towards the united states and it lands either in hawaii or the continental united states, it would be devastating. and so guidance systems and precise targeting may be secondary or even tertiary goals for the north korean regime, crossing this threshold would be significantly more meaningful for them. >> and let's me ask you the same question i asked a few moments ago. if you were advising president trump on next steps, what would you advise? >> well, first i think this administration needs to get its ducks in a row in terms of its messaging. nikki haley should be commended for achieving this national security council resolution that passed unanimously, but she almost did so not in coordination with the rest of the administration, but almost in spite of them. we've heard messages from president trump hugging china and then kicking them for
purportedly not doing enough. the secretary of state last month floated the idea that the united states would be open to talks with north korea only to have the vice president mike pence subsequently come out and say no, we will not engage in talks, a line that secretary of state tillerson later echoed. and mike pompeo spoke at length about separating kim jong-un from his nuclear arsenal without going into specifics. so we've heard this administration alternate between dialogue and negotiations and military force. i tend to agree with the general that only dialogue in this case will get us there. i tend to think that we should insist that the north koreans put denuclearization on the table. and i tend to think that we might see them more receptive. what kim jong-un seeks is to be on par with the united states and the six party partners and i think sitting around the table will in some ways give him a degree of what he seeks.
>> ned, also as i opposed to the general, it seems that it hasn't caught folks by surprise, but the speed with which it has happened is a bit surprising to a number of folks. how did we not see this coming quicker? >> well, i'm not sure we missed it. i can't go into classified assessments on or classified fos information, when you this was always on the table. u.s. intelligence agents knew this would be inevitableyou thi always on the table. u.s. intelligence agents knew this would be inevitable. but what i will say is that the north koreans along with other adversaries are masters of what is called deny and deception. north koreans know how to shield things so we can't detect them. and i think to a certain degree they have done so which may account for the shrinking time estimates that we've seen. >> who is helping them? are there scientists in north korea just that good or are they getting help from the outside? >> well, there has been some reporting that they are getting
help from outside parties to include the iranians, but the north koreans have had more than a decade to work on this. they detonated their first nuclear bomb in 2006, and they have conducted several nuclear tests since then. they do have home grown expertise. and that is something that i think we need to take into account whenever we think of a military option. you can destroy nuclear sites, you can destroy nuclear weapons. but yyou can't destroy expertis. and so i think as military planners are looking at contingency options, we'll have to think not only in terms of weeks or months, but often years town the road a down the road. >> general, what would a military strike against north korea look like? >> well, you've identified a number of facilities that are suspicion. we don't know for sure whether theft missiles and warheads in
thechld. may them. maybe there are two or three different storage locations for the warheads. you have to target all of those. and you have to assume that some you haven't found. you launch a surprise strike by special forces, maybe you have to take out some of their defense to get thin there. it has to be as effective as possible. but i think if you talk to the military guys, they would say maybe 70% chance, 80% chance of getting 70% of the assets. you won't get them all. and you've got to be prepared for the north korean reaction. the north korean reaction could be to step back stunned that the united states has done this. but this would be uncharacteristic of north korea's previous propensity to take aggressive action. so it's more likely that they
would then respond with artillery and missiles across the demilitarized zone. that is the most likely option other than a general war on the korean peninsula. >> ken, before we let yyou get out of here, going back to the initial assessment from the intelligence community, how many agencies are we talking here and with what degree of certainty? >> craig, we don't have that specificity. those are very good questions you're asking, but the "washington post" has reported that the defense intelligence agency, which is the pentagon intelligence arm that focuses on military capability, has made this assessment. we at nbc news don't have that level of clarity, we just know it's a u.s. intelligence asse assessme assessment. >> ken, in terms of what that means moving forward.
>> what is means is that they could have capability that could hit the united states. it doesn't mean that they are all the way there. there is still a technological hurdle of reentry and preventing the nuclear weapon from disintegrating. but miniaturization is considered one of the most difficult things to accomplish, making weapons small enough to fit on a missile. and u.s. intelligence is assessing that north korea has achieved that. >> all right. ken, thank you. stand by for me if you can, general and ned. i want to bring in our reporter at the pentagon for us. courtney, what have you learned? >> reporter: as ken was just saying, what is really significant is the fact that now north korea has passed two significant milestones in the very recent past. number one, they have twice successfully tested an
intercontinental ballistic missile this summer. and now according to this new intelligence report, they have the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon. now, what we still don't know is whether they have the ability to marry up the nuclear warhead with one of these icbms, with one of these ballistic missiles, and then what would happen if they were to try to fire it a long range. of course remember that would mean that they would have to shoot it up into space, and it would have to reentry back down into the atmosphere. one of the things that we've seen during their two icbm tests this summer is that the ballistic missile has broken up upon reentry into the atmosphere. so what we don't know yet is whether they would have that ability to actually carry this warhead any kind of a distance. but again, as ken was saying, it's extremely significant that they have the ability in of itself to miniaturize a warhead. >> keir simmons is in our london
bureau for us this afternoon. sir, what has been the international reaction so far? >> reporter: well, i think internationally some of this intelligence will not be news to many countries. i think the fact that it's emerging now and that it is getting confirmation from u.s. officials will be concerning many countries particularly in the region. i think when the conversation happens within the u.s. domestic arena, inevitably focused very much upon whether or not north korea would be able to fire a nuclear-armed missile at the u.s. but of course in south korea for example they are already in a position where their capital seoul is within range of the conventional weaponry that north korea has. so the big concern will be that not only is this a step for north korea in the direction of being able to fire an
intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead on that missile, but that this may be a ratcheting up of the situation that could lead to a very, very difficult and tense standoff and possibly a war. now, if that happened, and we've been talking about this in the past few days, it's very difficult to see how it ends. and keep in mind, just for example that there are almost 30,000 u.s. service men and women in the korean peninsula, so there are many u.s. men and women, that is not including the u.s. nationals who aren't in the services in that region. and vulnerable to a possible conflict if that is where this all ended up. >> ned, i want to come back to you for a moment because it was just sunday that we heard from hr mcmaster, national security adviser, who said, quote, it would be intolerable from the president's perspective talking about the prospect of north
korea with nuclear tipped icbms saying, quote, intolerable from the president's perspective. ned, you hear that and it sounds as if a military option is the only option that this administration is considering. >> well, we have heard as i said before these mixed messages. and i think hr mcmaster in his interview over the weekend was much more hawkish than we had previously heard from rex tillerson. and so i think this administration needs to marry a diplomatic strategy with the contin continual threat. certainly war as general dempsey said in aspen is not unimaginable. but the consequences of a strike on north korea or of a series of coordinated strikes on north korea would be unimaginable in terms of the death toll. and the other fact here is that we know where some of the north
korean's nuclear sites are, but i think the real concern that you will hear from military analysts are these so-called mobile road launchers, the mobile launchers that can launch icbms from anywhere in north korean territory. and so even if we know where the missiles are stored, where the nuclear warheads are stored, they can be transported somewhat easily especially if these reports of miniaturization are true. so even a military strike as has been contemplated as the defense department continues to plan for, it is not a guarantee that we would be able to eradicate north korea's nuclear arsenal which i think is a nightmare scenario for anyone who knows the potential of a conflict. >> i want to bring in retired colonel jack jacobs. let start there. what do you think our military options are here? >> well, there are very few.
some people say we don't have any military options, that the only thing we can do is carry on ratcheting up economic strictures, work with china because without china we can't get anything done and work toward a situation in which we actually sit down with the north korean s with china's assistance and guarantee their continued existence in exchange for their coughing up the nuclear weapons. but they have already said they are not going to do that and the only way to proceed now is to continue to squeeze them which i cannily economically until they either agree with the united states, china and russia or they give up. because they are basically a continuing krichbl entcriminal they won't stop developing weapons delivering capabilities
and the arsenal unless they have some sort of guarantee. so military options are few and far between. i don't think the united states is in the business or has much interest in taking the argument to the next higher level. but i tell you, there are two things we can do. one of them as i mentioned is continued economic strictures. and the other is that we have a fairly robust aggressive offensive capability in cyber. we're almost undoubtedly going to try something like that in addition to increase the number of andism proof o ism proois im sti missile capability. >> ned, our cyber capabilities, there has been reporting that we haven't touched the tip of the iceberg of what we could do from
that standpoint. what more can you tell us about our capabilities and will a cyberattack aimed at north korea, what it might look like? >> well, you probably won't be surprised to hear there is not much more i can tell you. i can acknowledge the reporting that we've seen over recent months pointing to the fact that there had been a number, a staggering in fact number of failed missile launches on the part of the north korean regime. now, the two icbm launches last month did not fail. they did disintegrate upon reentry into the atmosphere, ssu suggesting there are technical hurdles remaining. but the fact remains that the u.s. military and our intelligence community certainly will use all tools at their disposal when they look at this challenge and i think it would be dereliction of duty for our armed forces and our national security professionals not to. we have to throw everything we can at this challenge in addition to working with our
allies diplomatically and in addition to crafting u.n. security council resolutions and shoring inpotentially wobbly allies. we need to use other tools at our disposal to see to it that we can at least slow down the progress of north korea's program. >> general, the economic sanctions again as we've mentioned, there was that unanimous vote of the security council to levy yet another round of sanctions at north korea. how effective have those sanctions been? it would seem that one could argue that the sanctions really haven't been that effective if this is where we are now. >> i think that is true. i don't think that the sanctions have been very effective. in part because china is the greatest trading partner. china has two principal interests -- three principal interests here. number one is they don't want a flood of refugees for north korea into northeast china. and the tighter the sanctions, the greater the likelihood of some collapse that would unleash millions of north koreans into china. number two is they don't want
the collapse of the regime which would lead to a south korean and u.s. expansion of our domain and move us closer to china's border. and so they don't like that option. and they don't want warfare, but they would like the united states to leave the korean peninsula. so they are like a guy with a skeleton key jiggling the key in the lock trying to make the lock turn. they have pressure on the united states, pressure on north korea, there is a risk of war, they have their troops mobilized, they are ready to to go into north korea if possible with their troops that are next to the border. and they don't -- they just don't know what the right answer is, but they have brought the situation to a high simmer. they want to keep it there and they want to -- this is their critical moment to get the united states to do something decisive. and what they hope is that the talks with north korea which will i hope and i believe
inevitably happen would result in some kind of pullback of u.s. forces or reduction in exercises or a promise not to exercise, not to train in south korea that would result in eventually the u.s. abandonment of south korea as an ally. so all this is part of what is going on behind. the sanctions are not going to be effective because china doesn't want to bring north korea to the breaking point. >> shelby holiday is business and politics reporter with the "wall street journal." she joins me now. and i understand you actually had a conversation with leon panetta about this and other things last week. what did he tell you? >> yeah, he emphasized over and over the fact that we still have general john kelly, the new chief of staff, and he said i cannot emphasize enough that there has to be a thought process behind some of the president's tweets. he retweeted something about north korea.
and these twhooeets are very dangerous. kim jong-un is not a rational actor. and when you provoke him on twitterer, we don't know where that would lead. so second retary panetta has gr in john kelly. he's hopeful that the president will take his advice. but we talk about the biggest threats and certainly the one coming from north korea is the most imminent. i grew up in denver. the fact that a nuclear warhead could hit some of these big cities in the united states is not something that we can push down the road and deal with later. so we are have a president who has not faced a significant threat. he has not faced a major challenge. a lot of the wounds so far have been self-inflicted. and if he can take the advice of his new chief of staff, a lot of people in the defense community are hopeful. >> general kelly has not seemed to be able to where he isrestle president's cellphone away from him. >> not yet. >> kyrgios sim soeir simmons, i
as if perhaps the calculations of china and russia to a lesser extent have changed as it relates to north korea. what is behind that? >> reporter: that china and russia went along with that resolution, but i've been speaking to people in moscow and they are absolutely clear that the russian government is very worried about the north korean picture, that the chinese government is very worried about the north korean picture. there isn't a governments side from the government of north korea that aren't worried about this. partly though to do with the different perspectives that different countries have. and as i mentioned earlier, some of this is regional. we're talking now about the u.s. intelligence and what u.s. officials now believe. but there have been experts for some time who have believed that
pyongyang which been able to place a nuclear warhead on a short or medium range missile even if not a long range missile. and of course that has huge implications for south korea, for japan, for dhochina, for an country in that particular region. so for those countries that are closer to north korea, stakes get higher and higher and of course stakes in terms of conventional war get very, very high there in south korea andse. there are some estimates that if a strike by the u.s. led to retaliation by north korea and things escalated substantially, there could be hundreds of thousands of people killed. and possibly even more than that. so these countries are worried about it, but again, as a number of people have been saying, china is worried about other things, too. for example in a situation where
north korea was devastated and obviously that is a long way down the track in terms of what the u.s. would be thinking about at this stage, if that were to happen, then china would have to deal with a substantial refugee crisis for example. the chinese are not keen on seeing a situation where the u.s. -- where south korea and the u.s. if you like has some kind of a victory over north korea. and china sees u.s. backed forces closer to its border. so this is a geopolitical situation that is viewed in different ways depending on where you are on the globe. and we shouldn't forget that. while at the same time of course everybody knows that fundamentally the idea that kim jong-un might at some point possess a long range missile that could have a nuclear warhead that was capable of hitting the domestic united states is a very, very worrying
concept for the world because then at that stage of course the stakes would be even higher for all involved. >> josh barrow is senior editor with business insider. two polls out within the last 24 hours. cnn poll, cbs poll, both have been putting the president's approval rating below 40%. this is a president whose major policy achievement he heretoforewould be gorsuch. he doesn't seem to have a great deal of political capital. how might those things affects his response? >> not just an unpopular president, but a president widely viewed by much of the electorate not up to the facilities of the job. there is a certain distrust of his ability to handle a crisis like this. so i think it means that he doesn't have the latitude that a president would normally have and i suspect if there were some crisis, you wouldn't see like
you saw after september 11th with soaring approval numbers, people rallying around the flag. i think people who disapprove of this president are inclined to think that he will handle a cry ci crisis badly and not trust in whatever he's doing. so i think that limits his options. and that might be a good thing because as was discussed, all the military options are unattractive. and the reason i'm not totally losing my mind about this, people talk about kim jong-un as though he were crazy, but a lot of his behavior has been pretty rational looking to me including the nuclear program itself. what they want to do is protect themselves from collapse and appropriateth protect themsel s protect themselves from u.s. aggression and this program makes it unthinkable for us to undertake military action against them. so if their objective is survive, firing a nuclear weapon at someone undermines that objective. they have had the capability for a decade and they could have
delivered it elsewhere. they chosen not do that. so my hope is that it remains possible to maintain stability in the situation on the peninsula. unfortunately i think the president's saber rattling understa undermines that ability. and if north korea starts to think that we will undertake an attack against them, they could undermine the stability. >> and i would add, we talked about the polls, new numbers from cnn show that only 24% of americans believe the information coming out of the white house. against the backdrop of a crisis like north korea, that is a terrible number. 30% don't believe anything at all. anything the white house tells us. and you also have 70% of americans saying that president trump's tweets don't communicate the right message to foreign leaders. so in this instance, when president trump picks up that phone in the morning and tweets about north korea, americans are worried about that. this is something that affects
all americans and they do not appreciate it. >> we spend a lot of time talking about presidential credibility and it's instances like this where it's paramount. you raise an interesting point about mutual assured destruction being somewhat rational. but the fact that we have a regime that has spent the better part of the last few decades starving hits own people, that s not rational. >> soviets did all sorts of terrible things to their people too and we were still able to maintain stability with them for decades. obviously it's an evil regime. but that doesn't -- just because the regime has bad ideas and does bad things to its people didn't necessarily mean that we can't have a stable nonnuclear war -- >> "wall street journal" just reported that north korea would use a nuclear weapon against the u.s. it has the u.s. in its sights. it's not something that they want to use against south korea or japan or china or other
nations. they are take your getti are ta. so all their tests are directed at president trump at a time when not many people believe what is coming out of president's mouth. >> and ned price is still with us. again north korea successfully miniature rising a nuclear warhead. ned in new jersey right now, what is happening?rising a nucl warhead. ned in new jersey right now, what is happening? you've been in situations like this where the president is getting some sort of briefing and being bombarded with new information? >> that's right. i understand his deputy national security adviser is stationed up there in bedminster with the president as is his new chief of staff general john kelly. so i imagine president trump if he was not briefed on this before, which i certainly hope he was, that now that the news appears to be public if the news reports are indeed accurate, that the president has been apprised of the latest. i would have to add though, i certainly hope that his lieutenants up there caution him
against speaking publicly or god forbid tweeting about this news. we saw what happened this morning when the president apparently saw a "fox & friends" or fox news article that was to his liking and retweeted it which according to our ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley contained classified information. and this comes on the heels of attorney general jeff sessions' press conference last week along with the director of national intelligence when they warned of a crackdown on the disclosure of classified information. so you have a commander in chief who is prone to disclosing publicly via twitter and pronouncements with foreign leaders and other settings classified information. i certainly hope those who are with them and those relaying the latest urge caution and really reiterate the stakes to him. this is not something about which he should spout off without much consideration. >> anne gearan is the diplomatic correspondent for the
"washington post." ann anne, let's start with the recent u.n. security council agreement. what did it get the united states? >> well, it really is a diplomatic coup in that the united states was able first of all to get china to go along with the u.s. in drafting these sanctions and then to get a unanimous security council approval. that is definitely a diplomatic slap on the wrist or maybe more to north korea from its closest ally china. and a number of other countries that don't always go along with what the u.s. wants them do at the u.n. so on that side, it's a win. the practical effect is very much still tbd including whether china enforces it and of course in light of the rapid advances on north korean nuclear weapons capabilities, a lot of this really may just be too late. >> has the per spepgs gloceptio
changed? >> i would say yes very much. for a long time north korea was more of an annoyance than a real threat to almost every other country except south korea. certainly they have been a real threat to south korea, japan, u.s. ships at sea. and a number of other entities in the region. but less of a pressing threat than many in the united states claimed north korea to be all along. that really has changed in the last couple of years and it's changed because of the rapid pace with which north korea has pursued both its nuclear weapons and its ballistic missile capabilities. and the very free hand that the leader kim jong-un seems to have with keeping those programs on a very, very rapid course that are really defying all expectations by u.s. intelligence agencies and others. >> and have we perhaps overstated china's either
ability and/or willingness to rein in the north korean regime? >> you know, i think we're about to find out because china really does have a checkmate on north korea economically. so far they have been unwilling to use that because of the potential for it to negatively affect china. so china's equities here are real and they now have to balance the nuclear threat that north korea poses against the economic and humanitarian and security threat that china perceives would happen to them if north korea were to collapse. that's always been a bargain that they decided in their own favor all the way along and that it comes down on the side of propping up the north koreans.
giving the north korea i can't bes north koreans a slap on the wrist from time to time, but making sure that the regime stays in-tax. that bargain stlthey will have reexamine. >> general, let's play a hypothetical game. five, maybe ten years from now, north korea is a legitimate recognized known nuclear power. what does that mean? >> well, it means you've got to have stage determents. you have to work for stable deter rents on the korean peninsula. to get stable determents, you have to make sure that north korea cannot get an advantage at any level of conflict. so they can't send five tore bee t torpedo boats over and sink a couple ships and have the government collapse. they can't fire a rocket and with a single rocket
disestablish the government of south korea. so it puts more pressure on south korean politics and we have to be very strong with japan, otherwise japan will believe it needs its own nuclear determent in the region. so this is really about packing deterrence into a much smaller area and with difficult actors. north koreans, i agree with the man who said kim has been rational. he has been rational in terms of developing this nuclear capacity to prevent the united states from taking action against him. that is rational. but if you look at the north korean negotiating style in the past and their behavior in the past, they are impulsive. they are not rational the way washington, d.c. lawyers are rational. they don't believe and accept compromise. they don't do give and take in their negotiations. they do seize and take in
negotiations. so talking to north korea and establishing the understanding that we'll stabilize the north korean peninsula in a nuclear environment will be a real hard piece of work, it will take a lot of thought my beb members o this administration and support by congress to get this right. >> retired general mccaffrey, thank you so much for your time. are we essentially just watching our chickens come home to roost here, the news that north korea successfully militarized this weapon, is this the result of years if not decades of failed political and other policies as they relate to north korea? >> well, by the way i think wes clark is right. i've been involved with this north korean question for 20 years now. part of the problem is there has never been good options.
and i think wes makes an important point on the degree of rationality. the good news about north korea is they are a criminal regime. so they want to stay in power. so that makes them less likely to do some act that would bring armageddon down on them. having said that, remember they have shot down a u.s. air force aircraft, they seized a u.s. navy ship at sea, there was a couple three years of active warfare on the dmz in the '60s. so we have an issue with this guy and i think the next time around either president trump or the south koreans will not tolerate a major strike on us. so this is a very dangerous situation. >> what is the proper response here, what would you advise president trump do? >> there are no great options. we have to diplomatically engage, we have to go to the chinese and say you people will not be better off with a nuclear-armed unstable north korea. what if they strike at the
japanese or threaten the u.s. armed forces? they don't want to see a u.s. preemptive strike on north korea either with 70 nuclear weapons. so the only good thing that we can do in the short run is massively invest in ballistic missile defense. that is not enough. and then i think privately we'll have to tell him, look, if you people look like you're on the verge of a first strike, then we'll preempt you. and that has to be a credible determent step. >> are you surprised at the speed with which we've gotten to this particular milestone? >> well, i think all along when we find a situation that has no good options, we try and deny it exists. the elephant in the living room kind of thing. and i think all along we've discounted the fact that this primitive isolated nation could develop the technology to go nuke.
but it's all online. the only thing hard about it is developing weapons grade physicfissele material. they clearly have maybe a dozen weapons. within five year, they will be an active sub launch threat and icbm threat to the united states. right now problematic. but we have to take it into account. >> ned, let me come back to you here. in terms of how we got to this point, again, hindsight always 20/20, sometimes even better, looking back on not just the obama administration, but the bush administration, the clinton administration, first bush administration, what could we have done differently? >> well, this goes back more than 20 years to i believe it was 1994 when the clinton administration negotiated what is known as the agreed framework. something that essentially fell apart when the north koreans were caught cheating on it. look, we have always abided by
the principle whether north korea or iran or any other potential nuclear adversary that it's trust but verify. and in these two cases, we usually put verify before the trust. because we knew these regimes would and could potentially be up to no good. but clearly in the case of north korea, we weren't able to dissuade them from moving forward with a nuclear program. and that is why especially in the second bush administration and certainly in the obama administration, there were a number of u.n. security council sanctions against thoek with the support of the permanent five members of the security council to put north korea in an economic vice. but a u.n. security council sanctions regime along is diplomatic strategy. and what is important and what has been missing from previous
attempts is the ability to put a u.n. sanctions regime in the context of a broader strategy. something that brings the north koreans to the table, preferably in the context of a multilateral setting like the six party setting that has been used in this case that will bring the north koreans to the table to actually speak about their into you c nuclear program. they would be eager to come to the table to talk about sanctions or restrictions on joints military exercises between the united states and south korea for example, but they have never been eager to talk about their nuclear program. so these sanctions are a means, but they are not an end in itself. but they are very important i think to putting that pressure that will be coupled with contingency plans from the u.s. military along with active efforts on the part of not only the military, but our intelligence community to bring the pressure to bear on north korea. >> general, you were looking to jump in there.
what did you want to say? >> yes, because i was part of that 1994 discussion that ned was referencing. and actually we looked at the options then of military strike on north korea, that wasn't a good option in 1994. when 1994, when we thought they might have reprocessed the spent uranium fuel in the on board reactor. instead we got an agreement called the agreed framework. we were going to combine two reactors in north korea. and in the interim, provide heavy fuel oil they could burn. congress didn't like the idea of providing the fuel oil to north korea, within 3 or 4 years, given the strike between the executive and the congress, the agreement dissolved and collapsed the north koreans lost confidence in it, so we don't know whether they would have cheated on it anyway, but the point is, neither side really followed through. we could have worked on north
korea in 2002 when it was clear they were going for a uranium bomb, but at that time we were involved in worrying about the other member of the axis of evil, iraq. we maintained the focus on the middle east, and that's how we got to be here, if we had really followed the rhetoric and believed that nonproliferation was the key u.s. objective, north korea would have always been the u.s. prime problem, not iran, and not iraq. >> from a diplomatic standpoint, in terms of the options, many of which we've discussed here over the last 45 minutes or so. in terms of the options, what would they like to see? what do they think would be the most sensible path forward? >> well, allies in europe and
other partners on the u.n. security council who went along with u.s. suggestions here. really do tend to see this largely through the u.s. perspective, which is that north korea is a huge and pressing threat to its allies, to u.s. allies in asia, and could well be a pressing threat to the united states as well. at the moment, it is not north korea is not considered a territorial threat to europe, but that doesn't really matter in terms of the european allies perspective on this. the idea that a regime like north korea, which is largely inscrutable to many people, including intelligence analysts across the west, would have the means to attack the united states, would have the means to
attack international shipping, and would have the means to really use its nuclear weapons as cover for doing all kinds of other destabilizing things. those things are all very much on the minds of the countries that voted with the united states and china and russia, in -- on these latest sanctions. they don't have the same territorial concerns the u.s. now does. >> we know that kim jong un is a reclusive, we know he's a fan of dennis rodman, we know he leads around oppressive regime, he's not afraid to have family members killed. what else do we know? >> our knowledge base of him is quite limited. i would associate myself with
those on this panel who say he's an irrational actor. the general made a very important point that when we talk about north korea, we also cannot tune out the historical lessons of the iraq war. the lesson that kim jong un and before him his father learned with that invasion, was that in order to preempt u.s. aggression, you have to first have a nuclear program. if you are on the road or in the case of iraq, not even on the road, but potentially according to u.s. intelligence on the road to a nuclear program, you are susceptible, you are liable, in great danger. once north korea crossed that thresh hold, he gave north korea a -- when it comes to what we should do about north korea, i think we should take into
account his ration ailty as we have. but you also have to couple that with the economic pressure and the other means we've discussed in this panel to ensure we're using all the tools in our disposal to cajole and appeal to kim jong-un as a fairly rational leader of his country. >> north korea has militarized a nuclear weapon ahead of most estimates, produced a militarized nuclear warhead that can fit inside one of its missiles, is it is safe to say this did not catch the military community by surprise? >> i've been speaking to analysts who said, this was inevitable. from the moment they first developed nuclear weapons. one former cia official said, in 1999, i worked on an assessment
that predicted north korea would have the ability to strike the u.s. with a nuclear weapon by 2015. i'm surprised people are surprised. generals have long assumed they have the capability of hitting 9 united states with a nuclear weapon. if it's coming a few months sooner than the most recent predictions, it's not a strategic surprise to the united states. >> let me turn to the generals here for a few moments, this idea that this was inevitable is that safe to say, this was something that was definitely going to happen no matter what we did? >> i think so. unless we had done something decisive to knock them off the track. possibly taking them serious ly
they've told us what their three objectives are, they want u.s. forces out of korea, they want to be a recognized nuclear power. they're not going to get knocked off that thought. and finally, they want final vishlgtry, which is unification of the korean peninsula under their control, nonof the three aims are necessarily aided by them going nuclear. but that's where they are, we should recognize that's their determination to akmeev those outcomes. and so we got an intractable problem with no good military option. >> if those are their three objectives, if we sit down diplomatically with north korea and engage in a six party
conversation you suggested. if that's their goal and we know that certainly two of those three things aren't going to happen, where does that leave us? >> i agree with what barry mccaffrey said about it. you have to play a long game, you have to have dialogue, and we don't have to agree with their objectives, we just have to oppose them in a rational long term consistent reliable way to protect our allies, south korea and our ally, japan. >> do we have any indication -- we're expecting to hear from president trump soon addressing the nation on the opiod crisis. >> can we expect to hear from president trump on this new report something. >> i don't have that reporting, craig, i've been busy trying to reach out to intelligence officials who have been no
commenting on this one. >> we appreciate you at least giving it the old college try. a big thanks to kim delaney and a big thanks to all of the panel as well, who joined me throughout the hour. the news that north korea has successfully militarized a nuclear warhead, reporting that has now been confirmed by nbc news, first reported in the washington post. nbc news able to confirm that reporting now. i'm craig melvin. i'm now going to turn things over to my friend and colleague, katy tur is going to pick things up. >> we're going to continue on this breaking news conference. it's almost the top of the hour here on msnbc. we're following breaking news. north korea has developed a nuclear weapon, small enough to fit on an icbm. a u.s. intelligence official confirms it to nbc news. it's a major escalation in the country's nuclear capability,
and now a major problem for president donald trump. but it is not unexpected. it just happened a lot sooner than most expects predicted. north korea has tested 14 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including one that experts say could potentially reach as far as chicago. over the weekend, the u.n. security council imposed new sanctions on the country, hoping to strangle its military financing. u.s. ambassador to the u.n. nikki haley was asked about all this this morning on "today." >> can you start him economically in time to prevent him from combining those two things? the missile and shrinking the nuclear device to fit on that missile? >> we tried to ask him, what's your end game. he has to decide if he strikes the united states, is that something he can